“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” stars Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, and François Truffaut. Released on November 16, 1977, the film has Earth coming into contact with an unidentified flying object.
The film is directed by Steven Spielberg, who also directed films such as Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jurassic Park. For many years, this movie has been declared as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time as well as one of Spielberg’s finest treasures in his career, which is completely understandable due to his track record. This year marks the 40th anniversary of “Close Encounters” and to celebrate, the film is heading back into theaters this weekend in a new 4K resolution, and yes, I am officially reviewing it for the first time. This is actually my first experience with this science fiction classic, so it would be interesting to see what it looks like on the big screen. I managed to handle Spielberg’s Indiana Jones films, so surely I’ll be able to handle something like this. After all, he is one of the best directors in Hollywood history.
There have been a lot of science fiction films that feature mankind battling against extraterrestrials from outer space, and then there are those who offer a more grounded take on this out-of-this-world encounter. This is one of the prime examples of the latter, and for the most part, I thought this film was really impressive. Not just in terms of Spielberg’s storytelling, but in terms of its technical achievements as well. What made this film what it was 40 years ago was its thought-provoking themes, such as mankind’s responses to something that came from beyond the stars. It really makes us think about what we should do when an event like this happens to us sometime in the near future. The film also explores Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) and his obsession with the UFOs’ presence as well as how his actions affect his family. The way Spielberg blends these themes together was extremely effective thanks to his screenplay and his consistent sense of direction. The film is about over two hours long, and it does have a couple of slow parts that may bore some viewers, but the pacing was well put together to add some proper build-up during the first two acts. The cast also did a great job with their performances, especially Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon as Jillian, as they present themselves as actual people and not just regular actors who “act” like them. Another thing that I would like to point out is the film’s visuals. They looked amazing during its original release, and guess what? They still look amazing 40 years later. The film’s effects remarkably captured the sense of wonder and mystery without losing focus on its story and the characters. With the amount of practical effects that they used in the 1970s, it’s pretty hard to forget that I was actually watching an ordinary film. John Williams’ musical score was also the big highlight of the film as it plays a crucial part in the story. One example being the five-tone musical phrase in a major scale that is played throughout the film. The government specialists use that phrase to communicate with the UFOs during the film’s third act. That scene alone, to me, is a splendid example of how music can positively affect a film’s storytelling.
Overall, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is a wondrous and thought-provoking science fiction tale about mankind’s experience with extraterrestrial discovery. The story’s pacing may or may not be an issue for some viewers, but when it comes to the cast, the themes, Spielberg’s direction, and John Williams’ incredible score, that hardly even matters. Like his other films before and after it, this sci-fi classic still showcases Steven Spielberg’s fantastic talents as a director and as an imaginative storyteller. If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t seen this yet, I suggest you do so, either at home or at your closest theater that’s showing it for a limited time.